Church volunteer accused of raping boys - WKRN News 2

Church volunteer accused of raping boys

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Matthew Jernigan Matthew Jernigan

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - A church volunteer is behind bars in Rutherford County, charged with raping two young boys he met at the Heartland Baptist Church in Murfreesboro.

Matthew Jernigan, 24, was arrested Friday and charged with two counts of child rape, two counts of aggravated sexual battery and two counts of aggravated sexual battery by an authority figure.

Dusty Ray, the pastor at the Heartland Baptist Church, described Jernigan as "a nice guy", who has volunteered with the junior church program for the last four and half years.

He said the accusations are shocking.

"We're doing our best to make it through the most difficult thing that you could imagine that a pastor at a church would have to go through," Ray told News 2.

The Rutherford County Sheriff's Office said the two children are members of Heartland Baptist Church and there could be more victims.

"Children are being interviewed as we speak right now and will continue to be interviewed throughout the week and possibly into next week," said Det. Mickey McCullough.  "We've had cases where other children and parents have come forward weeks and months later.  We just don't know what the numbers are [going to] be when this investigation is completed."

The Rutherford County Sheriff's Office said Jernigan lived alone in a home on Trailside Drive off Appomattox Drive in the Walter Hill community.

His house is where the alleged sexual assaults occurred.

The news of the arrest spread quickly through the community and Jernigan's truck had to be towed away after his tires were slashed and someone scratched the word, "Molester" into the side.

Jernigan, who did not have a previous criminal history, is being held in the Rutherford County jail on $500,000 bond.

He is scheduled to appear in a Rutherford County courtroom May 4.

Anyone with concerns about their child's contact with Jernigan should contact Rutherford County authorities at 615-904-3055.

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